On missing fees, keep digging | Jan. 10, editorial
Businesses playing city for a patsy
The city of St. Petersburg keeps allowing big businesses to skirt their share of the tax burden. Then we get into the scam of giving large tax breaks to get companies to relocate, and when those incentives come to an end those same businesses start shopping around to find another city to relocate to and be subsidized by the taxpayer all over again.
I have followed a few of the beneficiaries of this scam, and the scenario is the same each time. They look for a location where the wages are low and unemployment is high, thus giving the appearance that they are the good guys. The relocation deals are all predicated on the large tax incentive package they wring out of politicians.
And now, in an article headlined "Budget idea boosts tax rate," the politicians are crying that they need more money to run the city. I wonder why. Could it be their mismanagement of collecting and assessing taxes that are currently on the books? A case in point is the recent decision by St. Petersburg to excuse Progress Energy of a large tax liability.
David Bellinger, Largo
Insurers push for waiver from federal health rule | Jan. 7
Serve customers, or else
The fact that some disreputable health insurers say they are being driven out of business by the new federal health rule requiring them to actually spend 80 percent of their premiums on medical costs is a good thing for health care.
It would be even better if these so-called health care providers were put in jail for fraud.
It is unfortunate that the Republican Party has decided defending businesses that want excessive profits for not providing health services is more important than having regulations that protect consumers.
Hopefully, the Obama administration will continue to require that health care providers actually provide a reasonable level of health care for the premiums they collect.
Martin Peters, Tarpon Springs
Voters could get say over gambling | Jan. 6
Another broken agreement
If we allow the big boys from Vegas to take over gambling, it will be another case of a broken treaty with the American Indians. They built up the gambling industry in Florida and have built and paid for the casinos. Now our greedy politicians smell more money to squander. So let's take it away from the original Americans; they're used to it.
W.R. Ames, Homosassa
Owners want to raze Biltmore | Jan. 10
Sad result for historical site
The demolition permit for the Belleview Biltmore has been filed, but it needs to be approved first. I wonder how the National Register of Historic Places will react when they realize one of their protected sites is going to be demolished. Years ago, the town of Belleair passed its own ordinance to ensure that the hotel was not razed. I assume that any demolition permit will have to pass both of those hurdles.
I think the Times should interview Matthew Cummings, a representative of the owners, to see exactly which "hotel developers throughout the country" he has consulted about restoring the hotel. Has he contacted Loews, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, etc.?
Cummings has described the hotel as an "eyesore." It sounds like a jab to make people go along with his agenda. It's only an eyesore because they haven't made any improvements since they bought it. I wonder how much the cost of building 180 townhomes compares to the cost of renovating the hotel itself.
I find it sad that a place so historic and magical is falling victim to the almighty dollar. Full disclosure: I got married at the Belleview. Maybe that is why I care about it so much.
Fred Shrum III, Tampa
Muslim speaker upsets critic | Jan. 10
Rabble-rouser, not leader
I find it appalling that a (usually) responsible newspaper like the Times would describe David Caton as a "conservative leader" and position his blatant racism as legitimate civic speech. Caton is not representative of any mainstream constituency. Rather, he actively attempts to spread suspicion, hatred and prejudice through his misnamed Florida Family Association.
His most recent antics — opposing the All-American Muslim TV show for its lack of terrorist characters, and his current rabble-rousing over a religious leader visiting a classroom — are part of his ongoing war of words against Muslims. His sensationalist campaigns have spread hate toward a variety of targets including gays, Muslims and others over the years.
He doesn't stand for anything other than the destruction of those he attacks.
Neither the Hillsborough County School Board, the newspaper nor the administration of Steinbrenner High School should consider the opinion of Caton or his followers to be at issue in their decisionmaking.
Amie Devero, Tampa
Teacher should be praised
As a teacher in Hillsborough County, I fully support Kelly Miliziano's choice of a Muslim guest speaker. I am both horrified and angry to see that David Caton's group is trying to spread their bigotry by emailing the school committee.
It may be worth noting that as a Jewish teacher, I find it refreshing that there is a teacher who tried to educate her students about a widely misunderstood religion and culture. Miliziano should be praised rather than vilified.
Caton's group has previously attacked gay rights activists and any other group that dares cross his line of what he finds "morally correct." Caton needs to learn that McCarthyism died in the mid 1950s — we don't need a newer version of the thought police, thank you. I can tell you that my own students are very good at thinking for themselves.
Ronald Medvni, Tampa
Where are the liberals? | Jan. 11, commentary
Seniors and wealth
I take exception to David Brooks' description of senior citizens taken from an article by George Will. When he describes the large differences in the household worth of seniors versus younger citizens, he fails to note that this took a lifetime of work, savings and sacrifices.
If he is referring to Social Security and Medicare benefits, it should be noted that many senior citizens who receive these entitlements would be either on the streets or suffer from an early demise if not for them.
Jack Levine, Palm Harbor